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Athletics: Gatlin's UK appearances in jeopardy over Powell head-to-head.

Byline: By David Martin

Doubts surround whether Justin Gatlin will compete at all in Britain this summer after he was accused of breaching a contract with meeting organisers.

The reigning Olympic and world 100 metres champion has pulled out of the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Gateshead on June 11, where he was set to face Asafa Powell.

Their appearances on Tyneside would have been the first time they had raced one another this year and was spiced up after Gatlin recently equalled his Jamaican rival's world record of 9.77 seconds.

Renaldo Nehemiah, Gat-lin's manager and a former 110m hurdles world record holder, would not answer questions at to whether Gatlin would fulfill his scheduled appearances in Birmingham and London.

Ian Stewart, of Fast Track, the company who organise the major UK Athletics international meetings, accused Nehemiah of breaching Gatlin's contract.

But Nehemiah claimed the head-to-head with Powell had never been part of the deal when Gatlin signed up for the three events before Christmas.

Now it seems harmony will have to be restored in the relationship between Nehemiah and Stewart if Gatlin is to run this season in the UK.

Fast Track themselves have yet to comment on the withdrawal from Gateshead, but in the circumstances they appear to be in a strong position to cancel Gatlin's lucrative pay days.

However, the company pride themselves on the London event being one of the greatest meetings in the global calendar each year.

Taking that into account, they are almost certain to aim for a compromise and endeavour to have Gatlin and Powell clashing at Crystal Palace on July 24. Last July's London meeting saw Gatlin set a UK allcomers' record of 9.89secs. He beat Powell, who was suffering from a groin injury and failed to finish their 100m encounter.

Fast Track managing director Jon Ridgeon is confident Gatlin will compete at the meeting on July 24.

Ridgeon said: "We're very pro-active about signing-up athletes as early as we can for our meetings - but that sometimes means we cannot at that time specify the distance.

"But when it was decided to stage the 100m, there were telephone calls and emails to Renaldo, who was happy with the plan.

"Four or five weeks ago at the Penn Relays, Ian Stewart flew to the Penn Relays (in Philadelphia) and specifically asked Gatlin himself if he was happy Powell would be included in the field.

"Both Nehemiah and Gatlin gave a verbal confirmation that they had no problems of him competing against Powell over 100m at Gateshead.

"I am happy we signed everything off professionally for the Gateshead race and now the time has come to stop throwing around toys.

"I want to see Gatlin and Powell running against each other in London and I am quite confident that we can make it happen."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 29, 2006
Words:479
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